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Photos from the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

These photos are from Saturday at the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF15) which was held at the Paso Robles Event Center. The festival included craft beer of 53 breweries from all over the United States, Europe and beyond. This was my first opportunity to attend and I did not attend as any type of “official media” so my experience was probably similar to that of any other first time attendee; except I probably waited in line longer to get in. On Friday night I had heard stories of lines just to get in reaching down the street and around the block, so I walked over to the event center and was there before 9:00 AM. If you are taking notes, the event did not start until noon and there was nothing to be gained by being among the first 20 to be there. If you get there at noon you will be fine.

To be honest, I was not aware that this was only the fourth Invitational and it is definitely run like they have been doing it a lot longer. I had the opportunity to speak with individuals that had attended multiple times before and the one thing that became obvious is that Firestone Walker listened to the feedback they received after each event. For example, in the beginning, attendees had to buy food and water. As the event evolved it now has free food from 26 restaurants and multiple free water stations with enough filtered water to hydrate the 3,000 plus attendees. Now, I have to say, I am not really sure how many tickets were sold but between comments I heard, articles I read and a personal guess, I would guess between 3,000 and 4,000. The thing is, the location can hold a lot more than that and when you divide them between 80 booths there was not much in the way of lines. Naturally, there were some breweries like Three Floyds and Alchemist that had long lines all day; and when breweries like Beachwood or The Bruery had their special pours people started waiting; but most of the lines that I experienced moved rather quickly. Continue reading

Road to the Firestone Walker Invitational

This past Friday morning I decided to start working my way north for the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival in Paso Robles. I left a little early as I was going to take the 101 and try to find a brewery that I had yet to visit. I had posted on the Craft Beer Guy Facebook page asking for suggestions and one of my followers and personal acquaintances, Charles Mumford, recommended a few, but the one that I knew would be open at the same time I was in the area was Rincon Brewery, a brewpub located in Carpinteria.

I arrived just before noon and their outside patio seemed packed with customers enjoying the warm sunshine. As I entered I noticed that they had about 10 of their own brews and several guest taps. It was a nice looking room with a surfer vibe, which should probably be expected considering the name Rincon and its proximity to the beach. To the left I noticed a large window that displayed the brewery on the other side. Since I was traveling solo this trip, I decided I would just get one flight and ordered their Bates Blond Belgian Style Blond, Indicator IPA, 17 @17 IPA and Rivermouth Stout. All four were solid beers and made me think they must have been open for years because things seem pretty dialed in, especially considering they were offering 10 varieties.

The beertender, who happened to be co-owner Alma Billgren, noticed I was taking photos and asked who I was shooting for. When I told her she suggested I meet their brewer, another co-owner, Shaun Crowley. He invited me back to the brewhouse and told me a little of their history and his own. Apparently they have only been open a little more than six months, which really surprised me. Crowley later informed me that he and Billgren had met while working at Island Brewing Company where he was the head brewer. While there, he took home medals at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival and got the desire to open his own place. Continue reading

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